Acquitted in Landmark Domestic Terrorism Case

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The Reykjavík District Court has convicted Sindri Snær Birgisson and Ísidór Nathansson for violating weapons law, but acquitted them of attempted terrorism, RÚV reports. It is the very first court ruling in Iceland in a terrorism-related case. The defence calls the ruling a condemnation of the prosecution and the National Police Commissioner, who they assert took the case too far from the start.

Hoarded weapons and planned attack

In September 2022, four Icelandic men were arrested in Iceland on suspicion of plotting terrorist acts against public institutions and civilians. The investigation was the first of its kind in Iceland, with 50 police officers taking part. According to the police, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. In private messages, two of the men had reportedly discussed carrying out an attack.

Two of the suspects were immediately released but the other two, Sindri Snær Birgisson and Ísidór Nathansson, were remanded in custody. The initial case was dismissed by the District Court in February 2023. A new 64-count indictment was presented in June and also dismissed by the district judge. The District Prosecutor appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, demanding that the case proceed to substantive trial. The Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal on October 23 last year.

Receive sentences for weapons offences

The hearing in the case finally took place last February, and both defendants denied the main charges. The District Court has just published its judgement in the case, acquitting Sindri Snær Birgisson of attempted terrorism and Ísidór Nathansson of being a party to attempted terrorism. Sindri Snær received a 24-month sentence for weapons offences, minus the time he has already spent in custody, while Ísidór received an 18-month sentence.

Inspector says police were right to intervene

Einar Oddur Sigurðsson, Ísidor’s defence attorney, stated it was a huge relief that the defendants had been cleared of allegations of intended terrorism. Sindri Snær’s attorney Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, admitted, however, that Sindri Snær’s weapons violation was an unusually serious offence. The two said that the judgement is a condemnation of how Icelandic police and the Icelandic justice system handled the case.

During his testimony, Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson outlined the National Police Commissioner’s involvement in the case. He affirmed that it was his assessment at the time, and remains his view today, that the police were correct to intervene.

The prosecutor has not yet stated whether the judgement will be appealed.

Defendants Deny Charges in Landmark Domestic Terrorism Trial

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

A landmark domestic terrorism trial against two men accused of plotting attacks against state institutions and civilians began at the Reykjavik District Court yesterday. Both defendants have denied the charges. A senior police officer testified that the suspects’ communications and behaviour justified police intervention.

Court proceedings begin

The main proceedings in the so-called domestic terrorism case began yesterday at the Reykjavik District Court. The District Court will be composed of three judges due to the scope and content of the case. The defence attorney for one of the defendants told Vísir yesterday that he believed there was good reason to be optimistic about the outcome of the case.

The case was opened in September of 2021 when four Icelandic men were arrested suspected of “terrorist plots” against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released; the other two, Sindri Snær Birgisson and Ísidór Nathansson, were remanded in custody.

According to the police, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. In private messages, the two men had reportedly discussed carrying out an attack. Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson told reporters at the time that this was the “first investigation of its kind to be launched in Iceland.”

On October 9, 2022, charges were filed against the two men. Sindri Snær was charged with attempted terrorism and weapons offences, and Ísidór for complicity in attempted terrorism, weapons offences, and minor drug offences.

A brief chronology of the case

On February 6, 2023, the Reykjavik District Court dismissed the case on the basis that it would be difficult for Sindri and Ísidór to mount a defence as the case failed to adequately specify their alleged criminal conduct in relation to said terrorist attacks. The indictment was, therefore, flawed to the extent that it did not meet the requirements of criminal procedure law.

The Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal decision four days later, and the prosecution was back to square one. As noted by Vísir, Símon Sigvaldason, one of the three Court of Appeals judges, issued a dissenting opinion, acknowledging certain flaws in the indictment but arguing that they were not so severe as to warrant dismissal. He believed that the district court’s decision should be annulled.

On June 12 last year, a new indictment was filed in the case, which was much more detailed and covered the alleged planning of terrorist acts. It more thoroughly described the accusations against Sindri Snær and Ísidór of plotting to murder named individuals and commit terrorist acts. They also expressed their admiration for notorious figures such as Anders Breivik. The second indictment did not, however, find favour with Daði Kristjánsson, the district judge, who agreed with Sveinn Andri Sveinsson, Sindri Snær’s defence attorney, to dismiss the case.

The District Prosecutor appealed the decision to the Court of Appeals, demanding that the case proceed to substantive trial. The Court of Appeals overturned the dismissal on October 23 last year.

The police were right to intervene

During his testimony in court yesterday, Sindri Snær Birgisson stated that he was in no way planning a terrorist attack when he discussed mass murder, purchasing police uniforms, admiring mass murderers, and similar topics with a friend. “I completely deny this; it’s just crazy.” He and his defence attorney have strongly criticised the prosecution for taking things out of context.

Ísidór likewise denied the charges and stated that he did not intend to assist Sindri in preparing terrorist acts. He claimed to have been coerced during police interrogation and that he had been held in solitary confinement. He described being under significant stress during the nearly three-month custody period. He admitted that he and Sindri shared a “disgusting” sense of humour.

During his testimony, Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson outlined the National Police Commissioner’s involvement in the case. When questioned by the defence attorney about statements at a press conference regarding the “prevention of a terrorist act,”, Karl Steinar noted that Sindri and Ísidór had made statements, in private messages, about intending to harm others. He affirmed that it was his assessment at the time, and it remains his view today, that the police were correct to intervene.

Woman Detained in Connection With Man’s Death in Reykjavík

police station reykjavík

A woman in her thirties has been placed in custody after a man was discovered deceased in an apartment building in Reykjavík last Saturday, Vísir reports. No further details on the investigation have been released.

Resuscitation efforts proved futile

On Saturday evening, the Capital Area Police was notified of an incident in an apartment building in East Reykjavík, Vísir reports.

Upon their arrival, the police discovered a non-responsive man in his fifties. Despite immediate resuscitation efforts, the man was later pronounced dead at the National Hospital.

A woman in her thirties was subsequently arrested and taken into custody. Yesterday, the Reykjavik District Court granted the Capital Area Police’s request, based on investigative interests, for the woman to remain in custody until September 27.

As per a police announcement, further details regarding the ongoing investigation will not be disclosed at this juncture.

This is the fourth time this year that a person has been placed under custody in a suspected murder case.

Sentenced to Eight Years in Prison for 3D-Printed Gun Shooting

Bergstaðastræti

A twenty-year-old man has been sentenced to eight years in prison for attempted murder with a 3D-printed weapon, Vísir reports. The shooting took place in a parking garage in Reykjavík in February of last year.

Four shots from a 3D-printed gun

Shortly after midnight on Sunday, February 13, 2022, twenty-year-old Ingólfur Kjartansson attacked another man in a parking garage in Reykjavík with a 3D-printed gun. Ingólfur fired a bullet into the right side of the victim’s chest, just above the nipple, which pierced the victim’s right lung. The victim suffered an open wound and traumatic bleeding in his chest, broken ribs, along with a traumatic pneumothorax.

As reported by Vísir – which has come into possession of a verdict from the District Court of Reykjavík – Ingólfur Kjartansson was sentenced to eight years in prison for attempted murder in November of last year. The prosecutor demanded a ten-year sentence. The verdict states that Ingólfur fired at least three additional shots from the weapon, all of which missed the victim. During the court hearing, Ingólfur stated that he and the victim had reconciled.

Vísir notes that the attack took place shortly after Ingólfur was released from prison. He received a two-year prison sentence in 2021 for violations of the Child Protection Act, assault and robbery, as well as weapons and drug offences.

Sustained a life-threatening injury

The victim’s medical certificate states that he sustained a life-threatening injury. Without treatment, the injuries may have led to his death. The certificate also states that victim faces a good chance of recovery, although it is possible that he has suffered permanent lung damage from the bullet or lasting musculoskeletal pain from his rib fractures.

Ingólfur confessed to the crime and was subsequently sentenced to eight years in prison for attempted murder. He was also ordered to pay the victim ISK 3.5 million ($25,000 / €23,000) in compensation.

Nurse Charged with Manslaughter Pleads Not Guilty

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

A National Hospital nurse charged with manslaughter has pleaded not guilty in a recent hearing by the Reykjavík District Court.

The nurse in question was charged with manslaughter in December of 2022 for “crimes committed in public service.”

See also: National Hospital Nurse Charged with Manslaughter

The nurse stands accused of force-feeding a patient in the National Hospital to death in August of 2021. She is said to have culpably caused the death of the victim, a woman in her fifties.

The accused was originally sentenced to be kept in custody for some time during the course of the investigation, but Vísir reports that this decision was overruled by the National Court.

The case is expected to be judged by judicial panel, in addition to including the testimony of medical professionals.

The hearing is scheduled for January 30.

Refugee Man and Family Previously Deported Win Case

Héraðsdómur Reykjavíkur Reykjavík District Court

The District Court of Reykjavík has decided that the November deportation of Hussein Hussein and his family was illegal. Now, following the decision, Hussein and his family are back in Iceland after they were deported to Greece.

In a statement from Albert Björn Lúðvíksson, a lawyer at Claudia & Partners law firm, the firm representing the refugee family, the “legal basis for the deportation was not justified.” Additionally, he stated that: “the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board judged their case to have been overdue. This remains unproven, and even if true, it is insignificant, as the Icelandic State stills bears responsibility for the procedure and any delays that have occurred.”

Read more: Protests in Wake of Deportations

Hussein Hussein is a refugee from Iraq who uses a wheelchair. His deportation in November of this year caused widespread outrage when footage surfaced on social media of authorities forcefully removing him from his wheelchair. The incident also caused controversy, as airport authorities attempted to suppress media coverage of the deportations.

At the time of the deportation, many expressed concern that Greece lacked facilities and resources for refugees with disabilities.

Although Hussein and his family have won their suit against the Immigration and Asylum Appeals Board, it is still possible for state representatives to appeal the case to the Court of Appeals. At this time, state representatives have made no comments with regard to this possibility.

Claudia Wilson, the family’s lawyer, has stated that the family arrived in Iceland over the weekend.

In statements to RÚV, the family has thanked everyone who has helped them so far in the case. They state that Hussein’s sisters intend to be back in school as soon as possible.

 

Former Minister Jón Baldvin Sentenced in Sexual Harassment Case

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson, former government minister and diplomat, has received a suspended sentence of two months’ imprisonment in a sexual harassment case related to an incident that took place at his home in Granada, Spain in 2018, Vísir reports. The Landsréttur Court of Appeals also ordered him to pay all court and appeal costs related to the case. Jón Baldvin’s defense attorney has said that an application will be made to the Supreme Court requesting the right to appeal the judgement.

An acquittal

The sexual harassment charges were first brought against Jón Baldvin in 2019, when Carmen Jóhannsdóttir accused him of having groped her buttocks during a dinner party in Granada the year before.

Resolution on the case was long delayed, however, in part because the Reykjavík District Court repeatedly dismissed it because the incident took place in Spain and was therefore not, the court contended, under its jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals overturned this dismissal on technical grounds: over four weeks had passed between the oral presentation of the call to stop the case and the court’s decision to throw the case out. As such, the District Court was forced to reopen the case.

Competing witness testimony also came into play. Carmen’s mother, Laufey Ósk Arnorsdóttir, was also in attendance at the party in 2018 and testified that she witnessed Jón Baldvin groping her daughter. The District Court rejected Laufey’s testimony, saying it did not correspond to Carmen’s version of events. Instead, it accepted the testimony of Jón Baldvin’s wife Bryndís Schram and a neighbor, who corroborated his version of events. The Reykjavík District Court finally ruled on the case in August 2021 and Jón Baldvin was acquitted of the charges.

A conviction

The case was then taken up again by the Court of Appeals, with the District Attorney seeking a suspended sentence of two to three months for Jón Baldvin. Carmen Jóhannsdóttir also sought damages totaling ISK one million [$7,086; €6,725]. Carmen’s claim for damages was rejected, but the Court of Appeals granted the DA’s suspended sentence of two months.

In its decision, the Court of Appeals stated that Carmen’s account of the incident was credible, and was, in fact, supported by that of her mother. It was the Court’s opinion that these testimonies outweighed Jón Baldvin’s denial.

A long history of accusations

Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson was an MP for the Social Democratic Party, serving as Minister of Finance from 1987 to 1988 and Foreign Affairs Minister from 1988 to 1995. Following his time in parliament, he served as a diplomat, first to the US and Mexico from 1998 to 2002, and then to the Baltics from 2002 to 2005.

He has faced repeated accusations of sexual harassment and impropriety throughout his career, dating all the way back to 1967 when he was a teacher at an elementary school. In 2012, it was revealed that Jón Baldvin had sent his wife’s niece Guðrún Harðardóttir sexually explicit letters starting when she was 14 years old. Jón Baldvin denied that he sexually harassed Guðrún, but apologised for what he called a “lapse of judgement” in initiating the correspondence. Guðrún attempted to press charges against Jón Baldvin, but police dropped the case.

See Also: Former Minister Accused of Sexual Harassment Over 50-Year Period

In 2013, Jón Baldvin was invited to be a guest lecturer at the University of Iceland. When objections ensued, the university withdrew the invitation. Jón Baldvin protested the decision and threatened to take legal action, upon which the university agreed to pay him ISK 500,000 [$3,542; €3,361] in compensation and publicly apologised for how they handled the matter.

In 2019, Stundin published interviews with four women, including Carmen Jóhannsdóttir, in which each described incidents of sexual harassment by Jón Baldvin. A Facebook group called #metoo Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson was formed around the same time, and at least 12 women used the platform to share accounts of sexual harassment at the hands of the former politician.

In the face of all these incidents, however, Jón Baldvin has maintained his utmost innocence. He called Carmen’s charge “pure fabrication” and stated it was part of “a coordinated attack on my reputation.”

‘It hasn’t been an easy journey, but today, it all became worth it’

Carmen was abroad at the time that the Court of Appeals published its decision, but she spoke to reporters after she’d had some time to process the news. “This is very much a cause for celebration,” she said. “I know it’s not a heavy sentence, but it’s just the fact that he’s been sentenced at all. I didn’t expect it, to be perfectly honest, but I’m really happy about it.”

“It’s been a long process and of course, there’s already been one ruling on it. But I have to say that I’m really happy about this. I’m happy about this victory—not just for me, but also for everyone who’s been subjected to abuse at the hands of Jón Baldvin.”

“Hopefully, this will set a precedent for other judges and lawyers,” continued Carmen. “And also just for people who haven’t had the desire or ability to claim their rights—that it’s worth it, even if it’s hard. I’ll absolutely admit that it hasn’t been an easy journey, but today, it all became worth it.”

Court Rules City Not Liable for Rabbit Collision

The Reykjavík District Court has ruled that the City of Reykjavík does not have to compensate a local cyclist who was injured when running over a rabbit on a municipally maintained cycling path, RÚV reports.

The accident occurred in 2016, after a rabbit ran into the path of the man’s bicycle. He ran over the animal, fell off his bike, and careened into a tree. He then had to be hospitalized for ten days to recover from the injuries he sustained.

See Also: Rabbit Rescue Hops to Rehome Sixty Wild Bunnies

In his suit, the man claimed that the conditions of the cycling path were indefensible, and that the lighting at the scene of the accident was particularly bad. He also maintained that the city had been aware of an ongoing wild rabbit epidemic, as well as an increase in cycling accidents involving the wayward hoppers, but had failed to take any action about this until subsequent media coverage of the issue.

In its judgement on the case, the District Court agreed that the city would have been aware of the disturbances that rabbits could cause for cyclists on its paths. However, rabbits are wild mammals and therefore, protected by Icelandic law. “It’s clear that rabbits, like other animals including birds, cats, and rats, can find their way onto the city’s walking and cycling paths,” remarked the court, adding that it would be no easy thing for municipal authorities to prevent such encounters.

The court also found that better lighting and/or mirrors on the path would have been unlikely to prevent the accident and the city will not be obligated to pay damages to the cyclist.

Custody of Domestic Terror Suspects Extended Four Weeks

Terror plot

The two individuals suspected of planning a domestic terror attack will be held in custody for another four weeks. RÚV reports that the District Court of Reykjavík approved the District Attorney’s request for extended custody on Friday. The suspects’ lawyers have appealed the decision to the National Court.

The suspects have been held in isolation for three weeks, a decision that has been criticized by their lawyers. In his petition for extended custody, however, DA Ólafur Þór Hauksson did not request further isolation.

See Also: Judge Grants Extended Custody Over Domestic Terror Suspects

Four Icelandic men were arrested on September 21 suspected of “terrorist plots” against state institutions and civilians. Two of the suspects were immediately released; the other two have remained in custody.

According to the police, the suspects had hoarded numerous weapons – including dozens of semi-automatic guns and 3D-printed components – alongside a considerable amount of ammunition. The men, all of whom are in their twenties, had reportedly discussed carrying out an attack during the police’s annual celebration (which was held on October 1).

Chief Police Inspector Karl Steinar Valsson told reporters that this was the “first investigation of its kind to be launched in Iceland.

Can’t Trademark ‘Northern Lights’ District Court Rules

A hotel operator in Grindavík can’t claim sole use of the phrase ‘Northern Lights’ and prevent other hotels and tourism service providers from using it in their own branding, RÚV reports. The District Court of Reykjavík ruled on the matter on Friday, saying that ‘Northern Light’ is too common a phenomenon for a company to be allowed to trademark the English term. Allowing one Icelandic company the exclusive right to ‘Northern Lights’ (or even ‘Northern Light’ in the singular) would be a disproportionate restriction to impose on other guest accommodation providers.

Too Broad a Term to Trademark

The owners of Northern Light Inn in Grindavík, South Iceland requested that a ban be imposed on Grótta Northern Lights Apartments and Rooms in Seltjarnarnes, just outside of Reykjavík, preventing the latter business from using the English phrase ‘Northern Lights’ in their name.  The Grindavík hoteliers registered the phrase ‘Northern Light’ as a trademark in 2006 and believed that the Seltjarnarnes hotel’s use of it in their name, even in the plural, was an infringement on their exclusive right to the term. The matter was taken to the county magistrate, who imposed a ban on other businesses using the name. (At time of writing, the hotel was using the English name ‘Grótta Aurora Lights,’ presumably due to the standing ban.)

The magistrate’s decision has now been reversed by the District Court in Reykjavík. Reserving exclusive use of the term ‘Northern Light’ for one hotel in Iceland would mean that the trademark holders would be able to prevent businesses across the tourism sector to refer to the northern lights in their English-language marketing or publicity materials, regardless of what services they were offering, said the judge. ‘Northern Light(s)’ is a term that is “closely related to services that it’s well-known that tourists seek out in Icelandic tourism.” The fact that the trademark was for the phrase ‘Northern Light’ in the singular changes nothing, the judge continued, and nor had the plaintiffs in Grindavík proven that tourists had confused the hotel in Seltjarnarnes with the one in Grindavík because they both use ‘Northern Lights’ in their name.

See Also: Who Owns HÚ(H)!?

This isn’t the first time that there’s been a scuffle over the attempted tradmarking of a commonly used term or phrase in Iceland. In one notable example in 2018, Icelandic cartoonist Hugleikur Dagsson was not allowed to sell t-shirts he designed in honor of the Iceland’s World Cup-qualifying football team because the caption on the shirt was a trademark violation. Hugleikur’s ‘Man Celebrating,’ shirt showed a man in Iceland’s team uniform doing the now-famous ‘Viking Clap’ and shouting “HÚ!” However, Gunnar Þór Andrésson, a sports trainer at the Landspítali Hospital, claimed that the caption was too close to the exclamation “HÚH!” which he’d trademarked.